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Basics of SEO Explained

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SEO (search engine optimization) is one of the key marketing channels that many businesses rely on for a consistent flow of traffic. The complexity of optimizing for top SERP rankings can be overwhelming. However, in this article, you’ll see that the process can be broken down into a few core digestible chunks.  A conversion rate of up to 14.6% can be achieved when SEO is done correctly. Also, Google holds 74.75% of the search engine market share. Therefore, the advice in this article caters towards satisfying the preferences of Google’s ranking algorithm.  Mastering SEO is an ongoing process, but getting the basics right can potentially bring you a flood of highly targeted potential buyers. SEO offers a high ROI on your efforts compared to other forms of marketing. It’s also a straightforward process that requires a bunch of small steps to be completed as you can see for yourself by reading onwards. 

SEO definition

SEO is about increasing your SERP (search engine results page) rankings. The process consists of things that you do directly to your website (on-page) and tasks you complete not on your website (off-page).  Keyword research, backlink building and increasing your webpage loading speed are just some of the tasks you’ll complete on the road to higher SERP rankings. (If you need a good tool for keyword research, check out this post by Matthew Woodward). Rankings are determined by an algorithm that can take over 200 factors into account. 

Why SEO is worth the hassle

If you aren’t sold on the merits of SEO it’s a good idea to look at the advantages. The stakes are huge for gaining market share in the online arena. You will consider investing heavily into SEO after getting through this list: More buyers: The difference between poor and good SERP rankings is similar to having a physical store location in a quiet town or in a busy shopping center. Search engines have the potential to deliver a horde of hungry buyers that your business relies on to meet a sales quota.  Raise brand awareness: customers may search for your brand on Google and become hesitant to buy if it’s not there. The perception is that better quality brands are placed higher in the rankings for relevant key terms.  Furthermore, you can raise brand awareness by optimizing for keywords that have informational search intent. Provide good quality informational content to position your brand as an authority in your field.  Better user experience: the tasks you complete to improve SERP rankings also contribute to better user experience. This includes decreasing web page loading speed, creating relevant content and adding a useful internal linking structure.  Higher conversion rates: Achieving high rankings for these keywords improves your overall conversion rate. Furthermore, once you complete on-page SEO tasks the user experience is improved and that also contributes to a higher conversion rate.  Cheap form of marketing: SEO can be a relatively inexpensive form of marketing – especially if you complete most of the tasks in-house. You could pay an SEO agency to get the ball rolling, but the fees are small compared to the potential returns down the line. On the other hand, marketing like PPC can require hordes of cash before you see a consistent return.  Gain market share: a portion of search engine traffic delivers customers that would not have found you through other marketing channels. Therefore, you can increase market share by investing in good SERP rankings. 

Keyword research

Keyword research is the first step of any SEO campaign. This phase helps you spot cost-effective opportunities where the competition is relatively low but there is decent search volume. You can use paid keyword research tools to gain access to hundreds of target keywords that are worth going after.  Searching for keywords involves looking at the ease of ranking versus the search volume. The idea is to find the golden keywords that offer excellent search volume with little competition. The type of competition you can take on depends on your funds, resources and expertise. You’ll need to evaluate the top listings to see what you’re up against.  Search volume determines the number of people searching for a specific keyword. Looking at search volume can clue you in on the demand for a particular market. Note that going after the most popular keyword of a niche is not always the best strategy. You can go after long-tail keywords, which are longer and more specific phrases that typically have less competition. Long-tail keywords account for 70% of traffic so it’s a worthwhile strategy.   You can increase your chances of being found by aligning your keywords to search intent in our article on Using Search Intent to Boost SEO Performance.

On-page optimization

On-page optimization can improve SERP rankings and makes your website easier to use. Here is a list of the basic optimization tasks you can complete directly on your website: Title tags: the title tag is what stands out the most on your SERP listing. It must contain your target keyword but in a natural manner. Good SEO practice also takes the end-user experience into account. Furthermore, the title length should be 40-70 characters for best results.  Meta descriptions: there is less of a direct ranking effect from meta descriptions, but writing effective ones improves CTR. Higher CTR’s, in turn, improve your rankings so you’ll get an indirect boost.  To avoid a high bounce rate make sure that the meta description is an accurate portrayal of what your web page is about.  Body content optimization: create sharable content that users will link to from all around the internet. It creates backlinks that improve your SERP rankings. Also, use your target and secondary keywords naturally. It’s important to avoid keyword stuffing since that will penalize your website ranking.  Bold and italicize keywords to draw attention to the important words on a page. Google pays attention to these and it also makes skim-reading easier for the audience.  URL structure: target keywords should be included in the URL structure. It contributes towards helping the ranking algorithm figure out what your page is about. That’s also good practice for helping users share links and navigate around your website.  Image optimization: spiders crawling your website cannot determine what an image is about so they look at the alt tags for information. You need to populate these with an accurate description that includes target keywords.  Also, the image filename and title should contain keywords as they contribute some weight towards ranking webpages for target keywords. You’ll also rank images in the image search engine, which gives you extra traffic. However, this traffic typically doesn’t convert well.  Page speed: decreasing page speed increases conversions because it improves the user experience. Since Google cares about user experience it’s widely known that page speed is a ranking factor. To decrease loading times you can decrease file size, compress images and fix errors.  Have Yoast on your website?  Read our Guide to Proper Yoast Setup to maximize your SEO.


Link building is the backbone of a good SEO campaign. The core principle that the Google search engine was built on is backlinks. They act as a vote from the website where the link is created to the one it’s targeting.  Before you understand the art of creating backlinks let’s break down why not all backlinks are created equally. 
  • Anchor text: this is the text that makes up the backlink. It might be the URL of the target page, a target keyword or a descriptive phrase such as: “click here to find out more”. Ideally, your target keywords should be in the anchor text and use a diverse range of keywords for natural link building. 
  • Link source: the webpage your incoming backlink is located determines the weight of the vote. Ideally, backlinks should be placed on authority websites in your niche so they are relevant. Also, link diversity is important, which means that incoming links should originate from various websites. 
The worst thing you can do is to build too many links too fast. Google over the years has evolved to catch the tricks SEO experts use to rank higher in the algorithm. Focus on natural link building techniques that are not questionable.  Most backlink campaigns focus on building external backlinks, but internal ones are the easiest to focus on first. Google counts internal linking towards rankings to an extent. Therefore, it’s a good idea to link relevant pages with target keywords. It also improves website usability and promotes visiting several pages in one session. 


SEO is a worthwhile marketing channel that’s feasible whether you’re a Fortune 500 company or in year 1 of business operations. Where most fail is straying the course when the going gets tough. You may have to wait for months before you see any tangible results for your efforts. It can be hard to justify investing more money as the months roll by without an increase in rankings.   However, once you get the traction you’re looking for in the SERP rankings the rewards can be lucrative. It’s even a viable strategy for companies with low funds to acquire huge streams of steady traffic that can grow a business to new heights.  To get the maximum performance out of your SEO, consider working with a search engine optimization agency like Auden Digital.  

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